The state Department of Land and Natural Resources has released a statement that dogs must be leashed on beaches for safety and health reasons.
People must also pick up after their animals.
“We have had a lot of complaints from people about dogs running loose on the beach approaching children,” said Division of Conservation and Resource Enforcement administrator Gary Moniz in a prepared statement.
Most complaints have originated on O’ahu, but Kaua’i residents must also heed the state laws.
Hawai’i law states that “No person shall enter public eating places, food stores, designated swimming areas or beaches with animals.”
Unless signs are posted, dogs are allowed if they are on a leash and the person with the dog disposes of its defecation.
The County has its own ordinance prohibiting loose animals on any parcel of public land, be it owned by the state or county.
The county ordinance states that “No person at a park or recreation facility shall lead or let loose any dogs or other domestic animals.”
On Kaua’i, DOCARE normally cites people under the county’s “strays prohibited” ordinance — it’s easier to prove in court.
Letting dogs loose on beaches, or “unencumbered state land,” carries a flat fine of $500, according to Milton Ching, Kaua’i DOCARE office. In court, a judge may alter the fine amount depending upon evidence that a dog was unleashed.
According to the Kaua’i County Parks and Recreation office, enforcement is sometimes tough because but they don’t have someone on all public lands at all times to cite owners of loose dogs.
DOCARE has also received complaints of people not disposing of dog defecation on beaches, which becomes an issue of public health, Moniz said.
“Putting dog poop onto the beach is not a good thing to do,” said Lihu’e veterinarian Dr. David Haas.
First of all it’s unsanitary, Haas said. No one wants to lie down for a tan and sit on a pile of dog doo.
Secondly, e. coli, salmonella, hookworms, or roundworms may exist in dog defecation. If a person unknowingly touches it and then touches food or their mouth, they could become infected, Dr. Haas said.
“I might let the dog go if there’s absolutely nobody else around and I always pick up after him (a mixed-breed named Huppi),” Haas added.
Marion Martinez, an employee of the Kapa’a Animal Clinic, said that her Rottweiler and Pomeranian always stay on leashes at the beach.
“It’s not safe for dogs or whoever’s holding their dog,” she said of people who don’t obey the leash law.
Maybe if no one is on the beach, it might be OK to let the dog go, but it’s not fair to friendly dogs on leashes to get attacked by unfriendly ones that are loose, she added.
“People think that because it’s summer the law does not apply to them and they can run on the beach with their dogs whenever they want. The truth is that the leash laws are very clear,” Moniz said.